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January 15, 2010

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Linking life to cyber world

POPULAR artists set aside their usual media to experiment with new forms for a freestyle show that explores the link between Internet space and current society. Wang Jie checks out the exhibits.

"Link" is certainly not a new or imaginative title for a contemporary art show as everything can be linked, including thoughts, forms and media. It's easy to be lulled into thinking, therefore, that the exhibition might be a plain one.

However, "Link" is anything but ordinary and is a visual treat for visitors.

The exhibition, featuring sculptures, canvas, installation and video, is the work of nine young artists articulating their thoughts.

The artists - Wu Xiaojun, Cao Xiaodong, Jin Yangping, Zhou Ming, Wang Yuhong, Huang Kui, Jiang Chongwu, Qiu Jia and Huang Mohan - combine for a quality contemporary art show.

The result is a rare standout among the current art exhibits on show in town.

"Let me clarify this concept of 'Link' for you," says curator Bai Jiafeng. "The theme implies the link between Internet space and its relationship with our current society."

According to Bai, the title comes from the basic technological connection linking different Websites, blogs and cyberspace.

"Today any link on a Webpage can guide viewers to a totally different illusionary space.

"It is everywhere, with various images hard to correct or delete. Sometimes it is forcibly linked and even can't be closed."

Whether reluctantly or not, visitors are "linked" to the world of the participating artists.

Wang Yuhong, a 30-something female artist, is known for her vivid, realistic depictions of still life.

But Wang is not content in reflecting a simple, theme-focussed concept, although her superb skills are widely recognized.

"Believe it or not, I have been in agony in recent years," she confesses.

"It is not because I wanted to catch up to popular art trends, but because I found that a piece of canvas was unable to include all I wanted to say."

The switch from a familiar medium to new media demands patience and "countless failures."

Luckily Wang has compiled a provocative artwork mixed with video and installation for this exhibition.

"Measure Cup" is an art piece based on her personal experience. Through the process of breastfeeding for her little daughter, she reinterprets the meanings behind the natural act.

"When a newly born baby takes the baby formula in a measuring cup fed by a nurse, he or she actually completes the first infant learning process," Wang says.

The continuous screening of the video she filmed in faded light for the exhibition numbs viewers watching the whole breastfeeding process - the baby's crying, suckling and the mother's pampering.

Departing from the usual practice of projecting the film onto a wall or through a television screen, Wang has conjured up a quite private space.

A line of heart-shaped sensory lights guides visitors into a darkened room. A wooden chair with a coat and some toys scattered on it is placed in the center, strengthening the isolated and feminine ambience of the room.

Visitors can eventually see the video that is softly projected onto the window.

The baby's feeding actions may evoke maternal happiness on the surface but here the artist is actually hinting that the process is a sluggish and tedious aspect of life.

"Maybe we are still children without choices in this dark, indifferent and sensible world controlled by adults," Wang concludes.

Another eye-catching item in the show was created by Jing Yangping, a master in oils from the Chinese Academy of Fine Arts.

Like Wang, Jing also shies away from his major medium. The 39-year-old artist displays a film narrating the changes experienced by a female worker who was laid off by a state-owned enterprise and later worked in a private company.

The movie fuses the worker's transition with metaphors about the conflict between capitalism and individualism.

The interesting aspect of the film doesn't lie in its content but in the producer's technique.

Jing engages in experimental hand-painted cartoons blended with sundry other media.

A pair of earphones is provided for viewers to hear the musical soundtrack added as a modern touch to this "old" social story.

The outstanding items in the "Link" exhibition, however, are perhaps Qiu Jia's sculptures.

A master of the sculpture department from the College of Fine Arts at Shanghai University, Qiu pays special respect to Chinese ancient wood craftsmanship in his piece titled "Mustard Boat."

The wood sculpture has been carved into the shape of a man lying on the ground, yet the angle of his repose gives viewers the illusion of looking at a boat.

Forsaking modern fastening aids like screws, Qiu has resorted to the tenon and mortise wood joinery method used in traditional Chinese craftsmanship.

"In my view, the tenon and mortise joint is not only special craftsmanship but also resembles the thinking and action connectivity modes for contemporary living," Qiu concludes.

In light of the special exhibits displayed, the term "link" may garner a new meaning for many visitors after they see the show.

"This is an incredible world, get ready, and be linked," Bai concludes.

Date: through February 10, 10am-4pm

Venue: Ming Yuan Art Center, 1199 Fuxing Rd M.



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